Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Warning About The Worry Trap

On Sunday I wrote this post about not feeling quite ready to begin the school year. As I went to sleep that night I was comforted by my son's words that he had just spoken to me when I went in to check on him before turning in. I talked to him about my feelings of ambivalence and how I didn't want to start, and he said with a smile, "We should just do it, Mom." That attitude showed through the whole next day in both of them, and they did their work with energy and a positive outlook. The dynamic was comfortable, natural, and something that can be sustained. It wasn't the high-intensity hyped-up start to the school year that we used to have--the ones where I thought the first day would set the tone for the year and make everything okay. It was more of a mood that said, "This is what we do--we've had a good break, now it's time to do work." (As I write that, I can hear the undertones of how much CrossFit has influenced our approach to many things in life.)

Two moments in particular delighted me, though there were quite a few throughout the day. The first was as I sat down with my daughter and opened one of her books, I realized she didn't know all the different parts of a book--title page, table of contents, index, etc. So I went over them with her. Then I asked her to read the first page. Up until the very end of last term she was a reluctant reader. She could and would read according to her ability, but would moan and groan about it, and be exhausted at the end of it. This time, however, she said, "Sure!" and proceeded to rattle off the whole first page without difficulty or hesitation. In the last week she has picked up one of her brother's Percy Jackson books and is reading it on her own because she wants to. So we made the leap from Inky the Indigo Fairy to Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief in one day.

The other moment was when I observed my son ripping pages out of his science notebook. This bothered me until I saw him diligently taping pages together, folding them a certain way, and putting them back in the notebook as he was instructed...he was...wait for it... following instructions on his own! And he didn't want any help from me! Yes, people it's true! They finally do become independent, but in our case it has taken much longer than I anticipated. Woo hoo! Can you see me doing a happy dance? (No...thank God you can't. Some things you just don't need to know.)

In the midst of all this, let me put things in perspective. When people told me way-back-when that I didn't need to worry too much, that eventually it "clicks" and kids just "get" how to read, I still stressed. I seemed to think I had spawned genetic mutants who would be decoding Peter Rabbit at age three and reading Shakespeare by age 8, but no, they are just basic, normally-developing kids who happen to be pretty smart. They just aren't geniuses. Hear me when I say this: Homeschooling does not make your kids more gifted than they are. It might help them to cultivate their gifts and develop them sooner than if they were not as closely tended, but it doesn't change who they are. Your attention to their natural learning styles, gifts and tendencies might help them to use all their talents and abilities more effectively, efficiently, fruitfully. But if your child is 6 and still does not like reading, it's really, really okay. really. Even if she is 7 or 8, it's still okay. (My dear friend whose girls are older than mine is reading this shaking her head.) Please understand that I just crawled out of that hole. Just. Shaking head, smacking forehead...I fell into the worry trap. Again. But now I'm out and trying to help you not fall into the same hole. See me? I'm standing in front of the hole, waving my hands and saying, "Don't go there! It really is going to be okay!"

So we had a good start. I hope the rest of the week continues in the same vein. I will update at the end and report how it went.

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